Stepping into a massively multiplayer online game for the first time is a rewarding experience, seeing hundreds of other players represented as virtual avatars.

Second Life was one of the first hugely successful massive online games upon its release in 2003, growing exponentially over the following decade. The game became a haven for artistic pursuits and social networking.

A replacement is on the way, one that promises to become the virtual world of choice for the future.

Philip Rosedale, the creator of Second Life, has been focused recently on a new project called High Fidelity, designed to marry the latest telepresence technologies with virtual worlds.

The goal of the project is to create an extremely detailed world – one where motion capture and voice are paired seamlessly, facilitating virtual communication in a way never seen before.

By using either virtual reality or a motion capture harness (they can’t currently be used simultaneously), users are able to move in time with the character in the online environment. This technology enables a new level of virtual interaction – one where two people from different parts of the world can shake hands.

Mr Rosedale predicts a rapid advance in virtual worlds, evolving to levels of detail never seen before, and approaching life-like realism.

“The virtual worlds of the future are going to look like Pandora from Avatar. And once we can build things in those worlds, I would assert that even people who are passionate about VR, here, have no idea what is coming,” Mr Rosedale says.

“We’re going to be arguing over the price of real estate in the forests of Pandora.”

While the project is still under development, and relies on a number of experimental technologies, it’s expected to launch in some form later in 2014.

If High Fidelity ever catches on, it could revolutionise virtual interaction.

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